Modi's SSP Politics misleading: No final permission to raise dam height yet

MODI's SARDAR SAROVAR POLITICS shall neither benefit Gujarat nor Narmada Valley
The politics around Narmada only continues to get worse by the day and has reached a level beyond the dam itself! It is obvious by now that Mr. Modi wants to raise the height of the dam beyond 122 mts in order to celebrate ‘Swarnim Gujarat’, rather than ensuring that the water crisis of Gujarat is resolved. There is no doubt that Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh are trying to obtain permission from the Central authorities to raise the dam to its final height by hook or crook and even influencing political opinion and authorities at the highest level, with alleged false information and fraudulent claims of compliance with all the stipulations on the basis of which the Project has been granted clearance. Read more

Mr. Narendra Modi’s recent statement that the Environment Sub-Group (ESG) of Narmada Control Authority (NCA) has, during its 48th Meeting held recently granted permission to raise the dam height to 138.68 mts is a false and misleading statement.  The permission to raise the dam height has not been finally granted either by the ESG or Resettlement and Rehabilitation Sub Group of NCA and hence Mr. Modi’s claim is far from truth. In any case, what purpose will it serve if the gates are kept open in a raised position? Both Mr. Modi and the ESG / NCA must answer this question forthrightly.

Mr. Modi is trying to create an absolutely false impression that the compliance of all the environmental safeguard measures is complete, while the fact and reality is diametrically opposite. Meeting after meeting of the Environment Sub Group of the Narmada Control Authority had clearly recorded the gaps and pitfalls in the compliance. Can the Chief Minister deny the fact that the Union Environment Ministry has forbidden irrigation in the command area of SSP since 2005 as the command area ecological concerns have not been addressed? It is also exposed by now that there is substantial non-compliance on various
environmental measures including command area development in Gujarat and hence the comprehensive interim reports of the Expert Committee chaired by Dr Devender Pandey has concluded, based on the governments own reports and presentations that there must be no further construction.

Worst is the scenario of benefits of Gujarat, since it is now known and officially declared in the state Assembly that the cost of the Project having reached 10 times the original, not more than one lakh hectares of irrigation is achieved, because not more than 30% of canals is built over 30 years. While there is a well-informed group within Gujarat raising questions with courage and conviction today, Mr. Modi only seems to be concerned with pushing the dam ahead, with political expediency and not the eco-protective prerequisites or fairly harnessing the benefits.

In spite of the Centre having given maximum financial assistance to the dam, the Modi Governemnt has not been able to utilize it with clear priority and honesty. In such a situation, therefore, more than 2 lakh people in the submergence area of the Sardar Sarovar in the three states of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat and those at the resettlement sites, including in Gujarat, who are yet to receive all their due entitlements as per law and policy are certainly to cry halt, asserting their legal and human right. The
already submerged adivasi communities who are yet to receive land for land as also the thickly populated communities of farmers, fish workers and potters in the plain areas of M.P. are demanding accountability, before this monument of injustice is pushed even an inch further or higher.

However, it is not only the oustees of the Project, but the people of Gujarat, especially in the drought prone regions of Kutch and Saurashtra and even Rajasthan who must raise the issue of costs and benefits of this ‘never ending Project’, compelling them to face an everyday and unending crisis, leaving them high and dry for decades together. When the water is flowing more towards the cities like Gandhinagar and to the corporates, people must demand distributive justice.

Without the environmental measures complied with, as a pre-condition, before the dam and canals are built, the water logging and salinization, canal breaches and minimum utilization of today’s available waters would continue to infest the Project and decrease the possibility of even the few benefits that may accrue out of it. The people of Gujarat must realize this reality and demand a white paper and a comprehensive review before any further construction and investment.

While Mr. Modi is seeking the Prime Minister’s intervention on the one hand and revised investment clearance on the other, Narmada Bachao Andolan strongly believes that the Project which was always pampered and pushed through unacceptable and illegal means, while even false claims and data happened to be legitimized, it is now at the last phase of the Project at least that the truth must prevail. With more than one legal basis, including the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal Award, the state rehabilitation polices, the environmental clearances granted, the Planning Commission’s investment clearance and
various judgements of the Supreme Court, we expect that the Prime Minister would take recourse to the legal and just procedure of assessment, such as the one brought out by Devender Pandey Committee, CAG Reports as also the M.P. High Court’s judgements and not yield to the unjust and illegal political pressures from Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh both.

It would behove the highest authority at the echelon of the power structure, even in the case of Narmada that the Prime Minister refuses intervene in appropriately in order to bypass the planning and monitoring agencies and their reports, that too for the BJP Governments of Gujarat and M.P. joining hands only to gain political mileage.

Medha Patkar    Ashish Mandloi  Kamla Yadav     Kailash Awasya
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